Sky's Glass smart TV has all its services built-in through a wifi connection
Sky has gone "on the offensive" in the global streaming wars after signalling the beginning of the end for the satellite dish with Glass, a new smart TV with built-in Sky services and apps.
Dana Strong, the chief executive, said the company was looking forward and not "over its shoulder" as she moved to protect Sky’s control over living room entertainment from the plethora of streaming apps arriving on British shores.
In her first announcement since taking charge in January, the American unveiled a new system based on broadband and wifi that marks a departure from nearly three decades of dominating the pay TV market with its satellite dishes.
The Comcast-owned company’s new smart TV and internet service opens up a new front in Sky’s fight for subscribers by broadening its battle beyond streaming aggregators such as Roku and Google Chromecast and towards TV manufacturers including Samsung and LG.
Sky has been defending itself from the influx of streaming apps for years by launching its on-demand app, Now TV, and bringing rival services onto the Sky Q box in an attempt to avoid "cord-cutting" where customers end their monthly subscriptions.
At a launch event in Greenwich on Thursday, Ms Strong said Glass put Sky on the front foot in the global battle for eyeballs.
"We are not looking over our shoulder at all, but looking forward," she added. "This is about really setting the standard for the next phase of innovation. This is playing offensive, this is setting the bar and moving the line forward in how seamlessly we have integrated the content and the apps aggregation."
Sky chief executive Dana Strong at the Glass launch
Sky Glass will be available from October 18 and will come in 43, 55 and 65 inch sizes spanning five colours. A wider roll-out across Europe will begin next year.
Sky will offer monthly payments plans like mobile phone plans starting at £13 a month for the 43-inch TV. The Sky Ultimate TV package will also be required at £26 a month, bringing the total to £39 a month.
The SmartTV features 4K Ultra HD screen, Dolby Atmos 360 surround sound and voice activation, while a separate streaming gadget called a "puck" will allow customers to watch Sky on a TV in another room for an extra £10 a month.
It also used the event to preview a 4K smart camera that links to Sky Glass, which is set to be introduced in 2022, and will enable video-calling through the new smart TV, as well as use movement tracking and gesture control to allow users to play games and take part in home workouts.
Sky said Glass would simplify the way users can find and watch TV through a new homepage that will unite Sky content with catch-up and streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Disney+.
A new Playlist feature will allow users to create a list of their favourite content from all apps and channels in one place.
A wider plan to offer Sky Glass packages bundled with Sky’s mobile and broadband service is also in the works, Ms Strong said.
It comes after The Telegraph revealed this week that Sky was closing in on a deal with Virgin Media O2 about investing in the telecoms operator’s full-fibre broadband roll-out.
Sky’s aggressive push behind internet TV posed questions about how quickly its 23m customers across Europe would migrate from satellite to the new service when it becomes widely available. Sky launched an IP box in Germany in August.
Sky's UK and Europe chief Stephen Van Rooyen at the Glass launch
Stephen van Rooyen, Sky’s UK & Europe chief executive who played a key role in delivering the project, said: “Sky Glass is made to be affordable. It is shaking up the market with a proposition that’s as simple and revolutionary as the TV itself."
Sky has a solid customer base in which to mount a push into IP integrated SmartTVs, but will face a challenge from Virgin Media O2’s plan to launch an IPTV offer by the end of the year and Amazon’s decision to launch a smartTV in the American market.
Julian Aquilina, of the media consultancy Enders Analysis, said: "Sky is planning a massive marketing campaign for Sky Glass over the next three months, which takes us to Christmas, and Sky will be keen to see this launch succeed, so no doubt it’ll encourage its existing customers to upgrade wherever possible.
"That said, although this is a huge product launch, Sky doesn’t really need to rush to switch its customers over from satellite," he added.
"Given the typical replacement cycle for a TV set is over 5 years (and perhaps up to 8 or 10), if someone has bought a brand new set in the last year or two then it might be a while before they wish to splash out on another. As a result, there are many years left for satellites."
Brian Roberts, the Comcast chief whose chat with a London cabbie three years ago helped convince him that Sky’s technology made it worth the £30bn price tag, said there had been a few "big moments" during Comcast’s 60 years in the TV business and Sky Glass "might be one of them".